Archive for the 'Radical Middle' Category



Concept: Surrender to the Lord

Why, I ask, do I want to write about this?

Here’s a thought:

This phrase, “surrender to the Lord” has deep meaning to hundreds of millions of people on our planet – Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and others.

It is also a phrase that has very little positive effect on millions of others, or in many cases, makes them want to run away.

So it is an important concept.  If more of us could get more clarity about both the sublime and the disturbing interpretations of this phrase, that could be a good thing.

It is these two words, “surrender” and “Lord” that cause the biggest impacts for either attracting or repelling people.

Throughout history there have been good authorities (kings, judges, land-owners, bosses, etc.) and bad ones; but all equally had to be called “lord.”   So when put together with the word “surrender”, the phrase can naturally be interpreted as a need for unquestioning deference and obedience.

How is that historic, very “earthly” interpretation compared to the spiritual interpretation?  Is there a close fit?  Or not?   Continue reading ‘Concept: Surrender to the Lord’

Disagreement is a puzzle, not a problem

Disagreement is a puzzle, not a problem.

Disagreement is an opportunity to learn, to create a greater whole.

The problem is hostility.

Arrogance, ridicule, self-righteousness, disrespect, spurious and misleading arguments are all forms of hostility – non-physical violence.

The good news is that many of us who disagree on important things, still agree that hostility is a mistake: We don’t have to defend ourselves from each other. We are only defending ourselves from the hostility we fear coming from others.  

Yet,  many also attack to gain control, or to defend, pre-emptively.

When the dominant paradigm (social rule) is to gain control and defend, then forget learning, forget creating a greater whole, ultimately, forget keeping the Earth alive.  Fortunately, at least, this is becoming more obvious.  Competing desires to gain control is finally becoming a threat to everyone.

OK, so now the problem is that while many of us agree that we keep making the same mistakes, we’re still having trouble agreeing on common solutions.  

Learning to listen, and talk without defenses, has become a very tricky thing !  This is what we have to work on.

The Structure of Collaboration

I recently discovered the similarity between two extremely powerful collaborative methods, focused conversation, and dialogue.   It’s not a surprising discovery, and obvious to anyone who has studied or used them both.   But I was very glad to see the connection, which is not just a connection between these two methods, but a deeper structure that has to be brought to the surface for any collaborative method to work.

The common principle is that a complete (holistic) understanding of any situation needs to be looked at through multiple perspectives; and there are at least three extremely basic ways of thinking that affect any perspective.

Through the lens of a focused conversation, the most basic needed perspectives are:

–        Objective (collecting the facts),

–        Reflective (understanding feelings),

–        Interpretative (deriving meaning), and

–        Decisional (taking action).

Through the lens of dialogue, these are:

–        Feeling,

–        Meaning (which combines the concepts of ‘objective’ and ‘interpretive’), and

–        Power (action).

The understanding in both systems is that different people, or the same people at different times, tend to think and express themselves using mainly one of these different ways of thinking.  When people talk to each other, one-to-one or in groups, people often get confused, frustrated, and angry because the other people are using entirely different ways of thinking to express themselves.  From any one person’s perspective, this looks like “You just don’t get it!” or ‘You’re completely ignoring the most important point!”

A collaborative method has to make people aware that there are indeed different ways of looking at any issue, and that all of these ways are necessary in order to come up with a solution that will actually work.  This is because only then will a whole picture of the situation be incorporated into the solution; and also because only then can everyone understand and get behind a common solution.

This  post continues these thoughts:

Creating Wholeness in Collaboration.

How reliance on experts gets us into hot water

This article from New Scientist reports a recent study that shows how relying on expert advice actually makes people give up trying to figure out solutions on their own.

This phenomenon has both adaptive and non-adaptive effects.

It is evolutionarily adaptive by being a “conformity-enforcing” phenomenon that can kick in when a large group needs to quickly move in the same direction in order to survive a big threat.   It’s also adaptive when the issues are extremely complex and most members of the population don’t have the knowledge or experience to really evaluate the risks and make a good decision.

It is evolutionarily non-adaptive when there is still a lot of confusion around the issue, when the experts themselves don’t agree, and when many experts are guided by narrow interests that don’t serve the group (like increasing and protecting their own personal prestige and wealth).

In our current global and national situation, our knowledge and systems have now evolved to the point where nearly all of the most critical threats to our survival are caused by our own, human, activities and decisions, and where these same issues are now so complex that it’s almost impossible to expect a relatively small number of experts to understand them well enough  to make the correct decisions (even forgetting personal biases).

Our survival now rests on our ability to engage the knowledge and wisdom of hundreds of thousands and even millions of people in order to make collective decisions.    As we all know this is a huge challenge – given our current tendencies to tear each other apart over disagreements, instead thinking together for the higher good.

There has to be a way!   We need leaders like Obama, who understand that we all have to be involved in solutions to national and global problems.  We also can’t make ridiculous expectations that require these leaders to immediately come up with the right solutions.  Currently many of us are simply sitting on the side-lines second-guessing them, or else looking for ways to ridicule their ideas.

(For example see this piece by David Rothkopf in the Washington Post.  At the end of his piece he seems to agree with the paragraph above.  But at the beginning of the piece he can’t resist ridiculing Obama and his team for not being omniscient.)

We also need some significant advances in understanding “collective intelligence” that also elevates “collective consciousness” rather than being “mined” for the good of the few.

Holistic Thinking: Contains No Preservatives

(Continuation of theme of previous post)

Preservatives by nature stop interactivity and adaptation.   Holistic – whole systems –  thinking doesn’t need or want ‘preservatives’:  attitudes, biases, hidden agendas, etc., whose main function is to protect individual or collective egos.   Does that mean that whole-systems thinking transcends egos?   I guess that’s at least the ideal.  But of course, the input has to filter through many egos.

Collective intelligence can work by collecting inputs from a whole system of egos (perspectives) with or without the awareness or participation of those egos.   When it occurs transparently and with the willing participation of the sources then collective intelligence can lead to collective consciousness.   But the trick, of course, is the “willing participation” part.

When gathering inputs for ‘collective intelligence’ there are a number of tricks for motivating people, when simply collecting without asking isn’t an option.   One is to offer a piece of candy (a reward of some type) in return for participation.   Another is to appeal to affinity, social capital, shared trust, values, or goals.  Hmmm.   Which of these seem most likely to result in collective consciousness?

The Radical Middle, Willie Nelson and Authenticity

The signs indicate that a majority of Americans are getting tired of bi-partisanship, and especially tired of phony positions and policies designed only to win elections (and to increase the power and wealth of the proponents).

The Radical Middle is one name for the movement to unite diverse perspectives into a collective search for truth and best solutions. (I first came across this term from an Utne collection in Sept. 04.)

Spreading a radical middle is a noble and necessary goal, but a tough one amid the natural complexity we all face, and the intentionally confusing noise of position jockeys trying to get votes and eyeballs.

What are the traits needed by those who can be genuinely respected by people from diverse perspectives? The main trait seems to be authenticity. In our complex times authenticity is, ironically, often expressed as irony. But there is also a type of authenticity that is much more simple and straight-forward. Just now I came across a relatively simple example in this excerpt of a review of a book about Willie Nelson:

“In parts of the country that are culturally and politically conservative — Texas being the most obvious case in point — he is often more likely to be greeted with a smile than a frown. Probably this has something to do with his passionate embrace of the cowboy myth … but my own hunch is that across the political and cultural spectrum, people simply understand that he’s totally genuine, devoid of artifice, and that this defuses whatever negative feelings they may harbor about the way he lives his life.”

A major key to success for the Radical Middle is the ability to defuse negativity. David Bohm, the renowned physicist and proponent of dialogue talked about the need… Continue reading ‘The Radical Middle, Willie Nelson and Authenticity’

Irony to soften the edges

Irony can used to make fun of others (gentle or not). And I, like others, use it to make fun of myself, especially when there is something I want others to listen to and not dismiss, because I know that my thinking is incomplete, and that a million contradictions can be hurled at it. So I will fend some of those off by letting people know that I’m human too. Irony exposes contradictions between vision and reality. Visions are never big enough to encompass all of Reality (reality).

Too many visions take themselves too seriously. The problem is, they don’t fit together well. So it helps to soften the edges by exposing the contradictions, and by expressing openness.

But of course, irony can be used with the exact opposite intent – to shut down, close, dismiss. borglephyloxy.


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